Turning Gears

Posted on November 20, 2020

I think if there's one thing I struggle with, it's probably routine maintenance. I've put a lot of effort into trying to make this struggle manageable, but I am stubborn, and do not give up my misgivings with things easily. This issue has always flummoxed me because I don't mind the idea of maintaining things, just actually doing the maintaining.

It's hard to admit, but I get legitimate joy out of designing processes for myself to follow. I like to pretend I'm a very organized person, and mentally that might be true, but there is something about organizing physical things that gives me the heebie-jeebies. This is slightly troubling both because my threshold for heebie-jeebies seems remarkably low and because I don't particularly mind cleaning and organizing. In fact, when it comes to files and things on the computer, I'm all about organizing stuff into logical, meaningful folders. This is doubly true when I'm writing code. But when it comes to managing actual files? Well, I'm getting better at it but it is not nearly as natural. Unfortunately, that is one of the few physical organizational tasks I can get myself to do without much hassle. Sometimes I feel like a mail sorter with PTSD. Why is this so hard? There is effectively no difference between sorting digital and physical files except that I have to move. It doesn't even necessarily take longer to sort actual files, so where does the dread come from? I think I'm focusing on this so much because it's a problem that consumes hours of my life and so many utils of happiness. It makes me almost as sad as the fact that our unit for enjoyment is called a util.

I have one somewhat reliable strategy for dealing with this problem. I have to construct a mental image of me doing the unsavory thing in conjunction with something really fun. If there's an album or podcast I'm excited about listening to, then it's pretty easy. But if it's an album I've listened to already, I have to actually imagine the songs and get excited about them before the thought of doing whatever task I don't want to do becomes palatable. I can't speak to how common this problem is, but for me it's just a lot of work for a relatively small reward.

Sometimes I'll find a new strategy for combating entropy and cleaning regularly. Most recently, I discovered an app called Orgzly which essentially provides a lot of the neat things about Org in a user interface on a mobile device. Which is good, because writing any kind of markup similar to Org is pretty difficult on mobile. It covers scheduled tasks, to-do states, tags to help categorize tasks, deadlines, and custom properties for anything else you might want in a to-do list. One of the main draws for me was that I could sync with my desktop and the formatting was seamless. All that being said, I think I lasted maybe a month with that setup before I stopped, and I don't really understand why. There wasn't a point when I decided I was bored of using Orgzly or it was too much work. Personal progressions (or digressions) like this are pretty interesting to me mostly because I can't detect them easily. It always feels like I'm suddenly doing (or not doing) this new thing.

I understand change is hard, but it's kind of strange how people are resistant to it. I don't think everyone reacts to change the same way I do, but maybe it's more common than I give it credit for. On a general human level, though, I can't help but wonder if it would be easier to accept the things that are hard instead of pushing for change all of the time. Maybe it's unrelenting optimism. Who knows.